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Footnotes > American Dirt - the controversy

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message 1: by Booknblues (new)

Booknblues | 5531 comments Here is a NYT article about American Dirt and the controversy surrounding it:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/25/ar...

What do you think?


message 2: by Meli (last edited Jan 25, 2020 06:29PM) (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3168 comments Here is another article about it I found interesting and helpful.
https://slate.com/culture/2020/01/ame...

I have so many thoughts about this controversy....

First, I am always a little weary when it seems to be a matter of "write what you know" because I don't believe that is a solution, and dangerous for literature as an art in general.

But reading into it, I feel like I can't decide if this book is truly problematic or not because I'm white. And, as other reviewers of color have mentioned, you just have to trust POC when they speak up about something they consider problematic.

I haven't read the book, so I don't know if it is good or bad, but I found this review in the NYT to be constructive and offer some non-emtional takes on why this reviewer doesn't think it is good.
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/17/bo...

There was another review that was much more emotional.
https://medium.com/@davidbowles/non-m...

I think what struck me about this story is Cummins' claim that she wished someone more brown than her would write the story. They did... they do... but they are not as well represented or paid nearly as much (this was a 7 figure deal!), so I think this is where the crux of the anger / emotion is coming from. Not necessarily that a white women wrote the story, but that she claimed she needed to do it, because no one else was writing this story, and the amount she was paid when Latinx writers are so underrepresented and underpaid... And of course the other misrepresentations / negative stereotypes mentioned in other reviews.

For now I will add some of the other books recommended by POC, written by POC, and take American Dirt off the tbr for now.

Essentially, I think when POC try to direct readers to stories that are #ownvoices I prefer to take those recommendations than something identified as problematic. I could read American Dirt for myself, but I don't think I will be able to identify whether it is bad in its cultural representations or not.

There is the argument that white people could read this book and learn something about immigration issues or that it could raise awareness (and is that so bad?), but perhaps the focus should be on the lack of Latinx diversity in publishing, and lack of fair pay. I don't believe white readers have to read from the white gaze to be made aware of social issues.


message 3: by Nicole D. (last edited Jan 25, 2020 09:31PM) (new)

Nicole D. | 1478 comments Meli - your last paragraph sums it up perfectly.

There is the argument that white people could read this book and learn something about immigration issues or that it could raise awareness (and is that so bad?), but perhaps the focus should be on the lack of Latinx diversity in publishing, and lack of fair pay. I don't believe white readers have to read from the white gaze to be made aware of social issues.

That first sentence, I was thinking that all along, until I got to the end. Then I realized in many ways it was irresponsible. Leaving the reader with a fantasy version of the migrant story.


https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/...

I found this to be a good summary. One of the major issues with the author is she claims to be white when convenient and claims to be Latinx when convenient.

I enjoyed the book, but had I read about the controversy before reading the book I never would have read it. Fortunately, I got it from the library so I didn't pay for it, but still ...

I mostly feel REALLY IRKED with the publisher


message 4: by Booknblues (new)

Booknblues | 5531 comments I am trying to sort my feelings out about this.

I work with preschoolers, the majority of which are Mexican-American or from Mexico. My job is to create an environment where they can learn and grow and to do that, I must respect their culture. It is not my culture but I can learn about their culture from the children and their parents, but I have to do so from a respectful stance...

I can not appropriate their culture, even while I enjoy it . I think authors can step over the line when they tell a story . I think Stockett did when she wrote The Help. I enjoyed that story and I think it had an important message, but I think it also had a white heroine, superhero and so it lowered my rating but made me wonder about myself.

I'm still mauling over this whole issue and not able to express my feelings clearly or in totality.


message 5: by Meli (last edited Jan 26, 2020 05:36AM) (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3168 comments Booknblues wrote: "but I think it also had a white heroine, superhero."

Ugh, this.
I hate this trope.
Like Green Book... when I saw that trailer I just thought "why?"
It's the 21st century. We don't need anymore stories about the white savior or white-person-realizes-the-other-isn't-so-bad-after-all-learns-lesson. We haven't needed them for so long.
It's time POC get space to tell their stories and share their art.
Which, again, I think is why the Latinx community is so incensed about this book and its publicity.

I wanted to share Cummins quote about her intentions to clarify what personally pushed me into the do-not-read side:
Cummins writes of her desire to humanize “the faceless brown mass”...“I wish someone slightly browner than me would write it...”

They did! And she read those books for inspiration!

I also forgot to mention (thank you, Nicole!) that Cummins was self-identifying as white, but changed it up recently. I'm not sure if she wasn't outspoken enough about being Puerto Rican or what, but it looks bad. If her argument now was she didn't want to be discriminated against it will look disingenuous whether it's true or not. But it's not like a long lost ancestor is Puerto Rican, her grandmother is Puerto Rican, so now we're in territory I can't navigate as a white women.

If there are other readers who would like to find other #ownvoices alternatives, here is another good list I found:
https://www.texasobserver.org/17-grea...


message 6: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3168 comments I read the Buzzfeed article after I posted that last comment...

"I am white." - Cummins

OK, so that clears that up.


message 7: by Anita (new)

Anita Pomerantz | 6305 comments I want to chime in, but travelling, and I can't bear typing on the dang app.

But I do plan on reading the book. And will also read Bang by Daniel Pena.

I do worry about holding fiction up to the same standard as a memoir. A lot of the books being recommended as substitute reads are not fiction. If I want to educate myself on border related issues, I surely am not reading American Dirt.

More later when I can actually type with more than one finger, but appreciate the thoughtful measured discussion here as per usual.


message 8: by Book Concierge (new)

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 5645 comments I am Mexican American. My father was born in Mexico. I was born in Del Rio Texas, a border town that is predominantly Mexican.

Also, if asked my race I say I'm white (though my DNA says 45% Native American, so maybe I should claim that). "Hispanic" "Latinx" etc is not a race; it's an ethnic origin.

Now I definitely think there needs to be parity and equality of treatment. I definitely believe that the American system is stacked against POC.

That said, I think you can decide whether to be offended or not. People say all sorts of things out of ignorance, rather than out of malice. I choose NOT to be offended most of the time. Walking around angry and offended all the time is a burden on ME, not on the person who made the careless remark. I will call someone out - respectfully - if they made such a remark, but I won't be hurt by it or carry it around with me.

This is a book. A work of fiction. By many accounts a well-written one about an issue that needs to be addressed. I take it at face value, and will probably read it.


message 9: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 58 comments Booknblues wrote: "Here is a NYT article about American Dirt and the controversy surrounding it:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/25/ar......"


Thank you for posting information about this controversy. My ftf book club is considering this book and now I have validation for feeling "a little squishy" about this selection and others.


message 10: by Susie (new)

Susie | 4488 comments Meli wrote: "Here is another article about it I found interesting and helpful.
https://slate.com/culture/2020/01/ame...

I have so many thoughts about this controversy......"


Meli, one of your paragraphs sums up how I feel about it.

But reading into it, I feel like I can't decide if this book is truly problematic or not because I'm white. And, as other reviewers of color have mentioned, you just have to trust POC when they speak up about something they consider problematic.

The insensitivity that the marketing juggernaut is displaying has blown my mind a little. Barbed wire centrepieces at the launch, barbed wire nails, Oprah filming from the border. I was saying in another group I am in that it reminds me of The Hunger Games, and Oprah is Effie Trinket. I do think I'll probably end up reading it to make my own assessment, though, and I'll also be reading other recommended titles.



message 11: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3168 comments I can't quote on the darn app... but good point, Book Concierge, re: "Latinx is not a race."

And I need to mention I took Cummins' quote about being white wildly out of context. I am not sure how she identifies is as much of the point as the lack of representation in the industry. For me, this is less about the individual and more about the publishing industry at large. But I am now just less interested in this book. At the same time, I don't necessarily want people who read it, want to read it, or already feel they got something out of it feeling guilty or bad about it.


message 12: by Heather Reads Books (last edited Jan 26, 2020 09:40PM) (new)

Heather Reads Books (gothicgunslinger) | 320 comments As a writer, I received some of the best advice on this topic when I was getting my MFA in creative writing. A professor said to us, "Don't just write about what you 'know.' You can write about anything, but you HAVE to put in the research to get it right."

I found this advice particularly freeing, since as an early 20s middle class light-skinned female from suburban Connecticut, my boring life was the very thing I sought to escape when writing fiction. I have always found the most powerful aspect of both reading and writing fiction to be the ability to step into someone else's shoes, and the empathy required to get you there.

With that in mind, I view this issue on a couple of levels. First and foremost is craft. All the stuff I just said, what was related to me by my creative writing prof, is all well and good, but if you can't spin a convincing yarn to start out with, it's all kind of moot. I haven't read American Dirt, but I found the NYT review by Parul Sehgal illuminating, and the suggestion there is that the book just isn't that well-written. The passages quoted struck me as entirely "middle-aged, well-off American woman"-y, and not someone with the alleged Mexican background. All the articles about this book that discuss cultural appropriation, racial disparities and income inequality in the publishing industry are valid, but they all seem to stem from the root issue: the Mexican characters just seem too American to be believable. Given that the author's main life experience has been lived in America – despite whatever her ethnic background might or might not be – I suspect that's where the root of the issue lies. Despite what she claims, she clearly didn't put in enough research. Most of the issues I noticed in the linked articles might even have been fixable, if the author ran the draft by the right people. The lack of correct idiomatic Mexican Spanish, for example, is a particularly easy fix – just find someone who speaks it and have them proofread those sections.

Then it goes to what others have said... why this book, if it is so lackluster, has been the darling of the publishing industry as of late, with the seven figure advance (a payout almost impossible to get for a fiction writer of any race these days), and all the media buzz. That I think speaks more to the prejudices and assumptions of the predominantly white publishing industry than the author. I found the statement in Sehgal's review that the book is completely absent any meaningful political commentary – when the premise itself covers an inherently political issue – to be indicative of a worrying trend I've noticed lately in big budget, mass appeal media (I could write a whole dissertation on the Star Wars sequel trilogy XD). It's like in our polarized times, these publishing giants are trying to have it both ways: cover the hot button social issues, but refrain from offending anyone about them so as to maximize profits. Which just results in the continued publication of poorly realized representations of these issues, perpetuating harmful stereotypes about them and the people they affect.

I could say much, much more about this, but I think I've ranted enough as it is for one night. Ironically enough, controversies like this make me want to read books more, because I can't tell anything for certain without having studied the source material. I'm a fervent library borrower though, and will definitely refrain from spending money on this book unless it really surprises me.


message 13: by Booknblues (new)

Booknblues | 5531 comments Heather wrote: "I could say much, much more about this, but I think I've ranted enough as it is for one night. ."

Heather, I thought you were very insightful. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Meli, your comments were also very helpful.

I'm still trying to gel my thoughts about this.

I was impressed by the author's earlier memoir about a very tragic and difficult time in her life and wanted to read this and then I became aware of the controversy surrounding this book.

If your grandmother is Puerto Rican you could feel closely tied to your Puerto Rican identity. My cousin is half Puerto Rican and has visited there and has relatives who still live there. She has truly been shaken by hurricane Maria and its after effects and now the earthquake. There is a story there that is yours.

The whole terrible and heartbreaking story of children torn from their mothers who are trying to immigrate affects us in varying ways. I can't stand to think of children sleeping on concrete floors away from their parents covered by mylar blankets without adult love and supervision with their "caregivers" being paid $750 a day. We certainly need journalist, novelist and others to bring their stories to light.

But while this story should be told is it one to profit from and make your name from? I'm just not quite decided about that.


message 14: by Nicole R (last edited Jan 27, 2020 06:01AM) (new)

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7717 comments I have been thinking about this a lot over the last couple of days, and really considering where the line is for works of fiction.

I definitely think that Cummins should be able to write and publish on any topic she wants. I do not think that a person has to personally experience something in order to write on a topic, nor does the person have to personally experience something for her view point to have merit. Books are published every day that are full of stereotypes. They can be offensive and even harmful to the perpetuation of that stereotype. And, while we may not like it, I do not believe in front-end regulation of publishing.

This book is a work of fiction, artistic liberty and just flat-out incorrectness are included in fiction. But, like Meli said, I think when an author chooses to write something they do not have first-hand experience with then they owe it to the culture they are portraying, their craft, and themselves to do their due diligence on research. And, like Anita said, I would not read this book to learn anything of substance about immigration or Mexican politics, but I would reach for something nonfiction for that.

Having said that, I don't actually think many people are actually arguing that Cummins should have never written the book (though I have seen some troubling comments in a few places, but not from experts). I think the trouble is that this book apparently contains harmful stereotypes (I have not read the book so I do not know what they are) and yet it got a massive purchase price and was selected by Oprah for the book club. And, I can definitely see where the issue with that lies.

Immigration is an incredibly important topic right now and it is clear that the publisher and Oprah wanted to promote a book on the topic and intended to start a meaningful discussion. But, they picked the wrong book. Neither of them did their due diligence before selecting the book, and could have selected a better book to open the dialogue.

And I think that also reflects on the lack of diversity in publishing. I am going to assume that, like most professions, employees of diverse color, ethnicity, and national origin are underrepresented. If the publishing house would have had more representation, then perhaps an early reader/reviewer would have flagged these issues. If the publishing house would have had more representation at higher levels, then perhaps a publisher would have actually required changes in the book or altered the contract. If Oprah's team would have vetted/focused grouped the book (cause you know they did) with a more diverse group, then perhaps she wouldn't have selected it.

I did see that Oprah is not backing away from her choice, but is changing the dialogue that she is fostering around the book. I don't know the details of that, but I hope it involves bringing in authors who have first-hand experience with immigration and the themes in Cummins's book, highlighting the stereotypes, and discussing why they are harmful/what the reality actually is.

And future discussion should perhaps shedding light on Cummins's research process. It does not seem like Cummins's intentionally set out to write a book that would offend and harm immigrants. Quite the opposite. It seems like she wanted to highlight a social aspect that she is appalled by, wants more people to be aware of. So, vilifying her for that seems harsh and wrong.

I also can't help but wonder if we would be having this conversation if her book did not contain stereotypes. Would we still have a backlash that a non-Mexican non-immigrant was writing about the Mexican immigrant experience? Would we have this conversation if the stereotypes were about a culture that is not so socially charged right now?

I am actually interested in reading this book and also discussing it/reading extensively about it. But, as others have said, I will not be spending money on it but will add my name to the hold list at the library.

Sorry that was so long. It is something I have been thinking about and discussing with people IRL.


message 15: by Nicole D. (last edited Jan 27, 2020 07:19AM) (new)

Nicole D. | 1478 comments so interesting what you say Nicole. Ultimately, I feel like this book was chosen by Oprah's team because it felt relatable to her audience.

It (apparently) reinforced Mexican stereotypes which people want to believe because it makes them feel better about ignoring the crisis.

It gave us a main character who was middle class.

It gave us two sisters, who were dirt poor but preternaturally beautiful. (otherwise why would we care about them.)

An orphan with cunning, money and a heart of gold. (really a (view spoiler))

Also, I meant to mention in my review and I forgot - all the children in this book were precocious. I get that being on the road will mature you, but won't give you the vocabulary of an English professor.

I want to be clear, I enjoyed the book. My issue isn't so much with the author, though I am picking the book apart, my issue is with the marketing. And the dumbing down of an important topic because that's what we have to do. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that the people who most need to read this book would read it anyway.

Also, can't overstate - the barbed wire centerpieces were abominable.

Finally on the topic of the Mexican stereotypes, I'll be honest - having read the book I have no idea which were stereotypes and which were accurate. I tend to find that stereotypes wouldn't be stereotypes if there wasn't some basis in fact. Maybe the author focused on some of the more stereotypical aspects of the "journey" but I couldn't pull them out of a lineup. I can tell you that I don't think any of the main characters were mexican stereotypes, so I'm not quite sure what they are referring to.

Again, I've lived near Mexico my whole life. I've been many times. I've been pulled over and asked for money while driving alone in the middle of the night (my boyfriend worked at a radio station just over the border, so I often went to pick him up.) The corruption exists.

I've traveled too much to judge a place by its stereotypes. I went to Kingston Jamaica when it was 4th in the world in murder per capita and I'm planning a trip to Mexico City in the summer. I think the trouble is that assuming stereotypes means everybody. In my experience, that is never the case.


message 16: by Nicole R (last edited Jan 27, 2020 07:57AM) (new)

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7717 comments Nicole D. wrote: "It (apparently) reinforced Mexican stereotypes which people want to believe because it makes them feel better about ignoring the crisis.

It gave us a main character who was middle class.

It gave us two sisters, who were dirt poor but preternaturally beautiful. (otherwise why would we care about them.)

An orphan with cunning, money and a heart of gold. (really a (view spoiler))

Also, I meant to mention in my review and I forgot - all the children in this book were precocious. I get that being on the road will mature you, but won't give you the vocabulary of an English professor."


I say all of my comments without having read the book, so take them with a grain of salt!

The things you mention are not limited to this book or books about immigrants. They are super common in all books. They are annoying, for sure, but are definitely not unique to the topic of immigration or this book.

And the dumbing down of important topics is often what we have to do. Not because everyone is dumb and can't read and understand nuance, but when you write a book for the general public, you want it to be accessible by a broad range of people, many of whom do not know much about immigration or Mexican politics. I put myself in that bucket as well.

And oftentimes, I think a well-written dumbing down can actually spark more interest and knowledge by opening the door to further, more in-depth reading on the topic. At the very least, it raises awareness. But, there is a difference between dumbing down (let's go with "simplifying" instead) and writing something blatantly ignorant of reality. Which doesn't seem to be what the author was doing.

I find it interesting that you could not put your finger on the exact aspects that are the stereotypes at issue in the controversy. Given where you live and your personal history, I am convinced that if you don't see them then I for sure wouldn't. Is that good or bad? Does that mean that some of these things are being unnecessarily called into question or does it mean that we are all much more out of touch than we realize? For me, it is probably the latter.

And the marketing aspect is interesting. I am not in marketing, so I am perhaps not the right person to comment, but I can see why someone went with the barbed wire for marketing. Horrific imagery? Absolutely. A physical manifestation of what the border represents to Mexicans? Also absolutely. An image the incites a range of emotions from fear to anger to sympathy? Again, checked that box.

Is it bad marketing because people do not feel like it adequately ties into the book? Or do people think it is bad marketing because it is capitalizing on an image that is too sensitive? I definitely see a line. I don't think you would launch a book about WWI concentration camps with center candles shaped like swastikas or toy boxcar trains no matter that the imagery is historically accurate. There is a line of common decency and common sense.

On the other hand, there is barbed wire on the cover of the book. So I am assuming that the barbed wire was to tie in with the book. Is the barbed wire okay for the book cover but not for other uses? These are legit questions. I am not trying to be incendiary.


message 17: by Nicole R (new)

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7717 comments I also saw that Amazon is limited reviews for the book from verified purchasers. Aka people who bought the book from Amazon. This is not the first book Amazon has done that for, but it also raises some interesting issues.

I believe that on Audible, you always had to have purchased the book from there in order to leave a review, but that has not previously been the case with Amazon.

https://www.marketplace.org/2020/01/2...


message 18: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (joabroda1) | 7262 comments Nicole R wrote: "I also saw that Amazon is limited reviews for the book from verified purchasers. Aka people who bought the book from Amazon. This is not the first book Amazon has done that for, but it also raises ..."

Very interesting, Thanks for sharing


message 19: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3168 comments Wow, I missed so much interesting conversation about this book!

Nicole D. wrote: "I tend to find that stereotypes wouldn't be stereotypes if there wasn't some basis in fact."

I agree with this... for me I wasn't as concerned about claims of negative stereotype, mostly because I didn't think I would recognize them, but also because I think getting some basic things wrong was more egregious. (for example, bad Mexican Spanish and the Owl nickname the protagonist claimed wasn't scary)

A lot of people here keep mentioning the book is fiction, and I agree it shouldn't be held to the standard of non-fiction, but again, if you are writing outside your own experience you gotta get some basic things right.

Heather - thanks for your input as a writer on this! And other insights on what writers need to do when writing from outside their experience.

I think an author needs to assume people of that experience or maybe even tangentially will read that book and they need to be entertained by a story that feels organic / plausible too.

On the barbed wire, I am with Nicole R in that I wasn't sure which part, to what degree, or where in the marketing it went tone deaf. Would love to hear others thoughts on that in more depth.

I think at this point it would look worse if Oprah doesn't stand behind her choice. It will just look like she doesn't put any thought into the choice, or that public outrage can change direction of her book club. Now there is even more opportunity for discussion, and much more interesting discussion if you ask me. I for one am kinda obsessed with all this in depth analysis / commentary / interaction with readers over this book.

Celebz who pulled their endorsements or other literary sites - you people aren't actually reading these books!!? And if you did actually read it, stand behind what you say with the caveat you are human and still have learning moments. What is so bad about that?

I think that is OK for the general public too - if you read it and enjoyed it, great. If hearing this dialogue makes you feel guilty, don't. Just take it as an opportunity to learn and grow because what else is there to do in this life until death!?


message 20: by Nicole D. (new)

Nicole D. | 1478 comments This is what I found "tone deaf"

https://twitter.com/lesbrains/status/...

People, and notably, children are dying. I can't wrap my head around this centerpiece.


message 21: by Nicole R (last edited Jan 27, 2020 10:25AM) (new)

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7717 comments Nicole D. wrote: "This is what I found "tone deaf"

https://twitter.com/lesbrains/status/...

People, and notably, children are dying. I can't wrap my head around this centerpiece."


While I definitely agree that people are dying, I don't think the use of the barbed wire was done for a purely aesthetic reason. No one was like, "know what would be awesome? barbed wire!"

Instead, barbed wire was used for the book cover because it represents the physical barrier to immigration. The center pieces were at a book party that was, in part, recognizing the success of American Dirt and the centerpieces were crafted to mirror the book cover.

I do see that it is different than the book cover. The decorations were being used at a celebration, that definitely seems to make light of what the barbed wire represents. And can definitely be seen as capitalizing and celebrating a horrible social injustice.

I do see both sides of the argument. I haven't finished working through all of my thoughts though.....but, like Meli, I am finding the discussion very informative and interesting.


message 22: by Nicole R (last edited Jan 27, 2020 10:41AM) (new)

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7717 comments Did a little google search, and I think I would rather read one of these books than American Dirt:

https://www.texasobserver.org/17-grea...

https://remezcla.com/lists/culture/am...

Maybe this one: Children of the Land by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo


message 23: by Nicole D. (new)

Nicole D. | 1478 comments ok ...

complete with such tired stereotypes as the Latin lover, the suffering mother, and the stoic manchild.

they are stereotypes for a reason. Also, doesn't EVERY culture have a suffering mother?


message 24: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3168 comments Who's mother is not suffering!? I can agree on that point.


message 25: by Nicole R (new)

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7717 comments Every mother, from the dawn of time, is suffering. Just ask them! lol

(Sorry, Nicole D. I know you are a mom! lol)


message 26: by Booknblues (new)

Booknblues | 5531 comments Nicole R wrote: "Did a little google search, and I think I would rather read one of these books than American Dirt:

https://www.texasobserver.org/17-grea...

htt..."


Thanks for that Nicole, I think that is the way I'm going to go.


message 27: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3168 comments Nicole R wrote: "Every mother, from the dawn of time, is suffering. Just ask them! lol

(Sorry, Nicole D. I know you are a mom! lol)"


Soooo... for funzies I asked my mom , "mom, are you suffering? must answer yes or no." And she said no 🤣 And she added "... all people experience suffering but if it's continuous that's a mental health issue."


message 28: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (joabroda1) | 7262 comments Meli wrote: "Nicole R wrote: "Every mother, from the dawn of time, is suffering. Just ask them! lol

(Sorry, Nicole D. I know you are a mom! lol)"

Soooo... for funzies I asked my mom , "mom, are you suffering?..."

Agree with Mom! 😁


message 29: by Amy (new)

Amy | 8311 comments Late to the discussion, but I am in no way suffering. I mean I suffer because my love is so great that I worry, and I feel through every pain of these three boys’ existence. But I exist separate from them, and of course directly from them, so much more joy. I work in a profession with a lot of suffering, and still from that I derive great joy. I think that’s true of majority of my friends. That we love our children in ordinately but we are not suffering. Just loving.


message 30: by Book Concierge (new)

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 5645 comments Meli wrote: "I think at this point it would look worse if Oprah doesn't stand behind her choice. It will just look like she doesn't put ....."

She stood behind her choice of Frey's A Million Little Pieces even after it was outed as including some signification fabrications.


message 31: by Book Concierge (new)

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 5645 comments Nicole R wrote: "Did a little google search, and I think I would rather read one of these books than American Dirt:

https://www.texasobserver.org/17-grea........"


I've read some on these list ... some I liked some I didn't. I do think that suggesting someone read instead a memoir or essays / nonfiction, is very different from a novel.

You can see the books I've tagged "Latino literature" HERE There are 80 of them.


message 32: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (joabroda1) | 7262 comments Amy wrote: "Late to the discussion, but I am in no way suffering. I mean I suffer because my love is so great that I worry, and I feel through every pain of these three boys’ existence. But I exist separate fr..."

Agree Amy-if my child hurts, I hurt, if my child is happy I am happy. But as my own person, I don't depend on my child for these feelings and don't hold her accountable for my emotions. Parenting is hard, but I don't think it has ever made me suffer.


message 33: by Jen K (new)

Jen K | 1164 comments Book Concierge wrote: "Nicole R wrote: "Did a little google search, and I think I would rather read one of these books than American Dirt:

https://www.texasobserver.org/17-grea......"


Thanks for the suggestions!


message 34: by Meli (last edited Jan 30, 2020 09:25AM) (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3168 comments This has escalated...

https://lithub.com/dear-oprah-winfrey...

and I feel sorry for Jeanine Cummins because I don't believe she intended to be harmful in her portrayals, and I think she honestly felt she did the homework. Of course, there was no one in this development process along the way to say otherwise either, until it was too late.

Listening to Bookriot's podcast this morning they brought up a good point - if this didn't have the immense amount of backing and publicity the hubbub would have died out by now. Obviously the publishing industry, for whatever reason, decided to make this THE book of the year and a lot of money went in to making sure everyone heard about it and all the right people blurbed it, efforts that are non-existent for Latinx writers...

I am not sure how I feel about the letter to Oprah to retract the book as her pick. On the one hand it seems particularly cruel to Cummins for a minor (?) offense (I guess I think the offense is really on the industry and its lack of diversity), but at the same time I don't think this would be an Oprah book club pick if there wasn't the hype machine pushing it in its trajectory to the status it reached... and if so, does it deserve to be there in the first place?

One minute you are achieving a life's dream, the next you are the pariah of the industry 😢 I don't think this weight belongs on Cummins' shoulders, but I do think she should engage with the bookish community at large, especially Latinx members, to open a dialogue about the whole controversy. I think there are a lot of members who would love to do that in a non-threatening constructive way, but admittedly if it were me I'd probably want to crawl in a hole and hibernate for a while.


message 35: by Joi (new)

Joi (missjoious) | 3782 comments I haven't looked into this yet- will read through the thread later today, but I Just saw that the author's tour date near me was cancelled. She was supposed to be at Powell's in Portland tomorrow, it it was announced yesterday that her publisher has cancelled due to 'safety for the author'.

https://www.oregonlive.com/books/2020...


message 36: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3168 comments Flatiron books issued and apology and cancelled her book tour.


message 37: by Nicole R (new)

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7717 comments Meli wrote: "...and I think she honestly felt she did the homework. Of course, there was no one in this development process along the way to say otherwise either, until it was too late..."

I completely agree with this point. And I think that is part of the argument, right? That she may have done research, but no one thought to get the input of someone with personal experience/connection to the issue. In addition, no one with that background worked at the publishing house.

To take it out of the highly charged immigration context, if I were going to write a book (fiction, but literary) set in Seattle, a place I have never been, then I would definitely do research but I would likely ask someone who lives in Seattle to also read it to make sure it was on the mark.

I do think that it has escalated because the publishing house has really been pushing it and it is their big publicity push of the season, and Oprah has selected it to.

But, it seems like that was part of Nicole D's argument--fine, you can publish whatever you want and maybe it can be overlooked when an author is not overly diligent, but if you are making this book THE centerpiece of your publishing season and you are selecting this book to one of THE biggest book clubs in the world, then you also owe due diligence as well.


message 38: by Nicole R (new)

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7717 comments Joi wrote: "it it was announced yesterday that her publisher has cancelled due to 'safety for the author'."

"Safety of the author"?! That implies physical threats against her and that is completely uncalled for and inappropriate.


message 39: by Theresa (last edited Jan 30, 2020 02:21PM) (new)

Theresa | 6348 comments Here's the Washington Post coverage - yes there have been actual physical threats against her and the store. So wrong. So appalling. What has happened to reasoned discourse?!

To me, this is becoming censorship: "Such judgments on this novel have and should be made, but now, to read “American Dirt” or even to tolerate others reading it is to risk being regarded as a participant in its “harmful” effect."

I'm no longer on the fence about reading this. I'm going to simply because I refuse to in any way appear to be supporting what to me is censorship.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...


message 40: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (joabroda1) | 7262 comments This is really crazy! I agree with Theresa, what has happened to reason~yikes!


message 41: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3168 comments I am still not interested in reading the book... well, realistically it is not on my physical tbr and I am over-committed for the year anyway, but I understand the thought to read it anyway just because.

I think the voices that initiated this backlash are reasonable.
Unfortunately now there is the inevitable pile on going to an extreme level.


message 42: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3168 comments If you wanna lose faith in humanity, read the comments section in that WP article... I'm a fucking masochist apparently.


message 43: by Nicole R (new)

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7717 comments NEVER read the comments sections. Ever. It is a nightmare.


message 44: by Nicole D. (new)

Nicole D. | 1478 comments I don't have time, access or frankly interest in reading any more articles about this, but I do want to say that in support of the author (who my issue was never with) I think that faceless brown mass has been taken completely out of context. I'm sure there is a good chunk of the country who view them that way. She certainly wasn't implying she felt that way.


message 45: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 6348 comments I was attracted to it as a thriller. Nothing more. I started backing off under weight of promotion as something attempting to be more than that. I am back to my initial read as a thriller.

And never read comments to articles like this. Never.


message 46: by Booknblues (new)

Booknblues | 5531 comments I'm sad to see the way this is playing out. In the end it is especially sad for the author.


message 47: by Tracy (new)

Tracy (tstan) | 1182 comments Especially since it appears the publisher is throwing her under the bus.


message 48: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3168 comments Nicole D. wrote: "I don't have time, access or frankly interest in reading any more articles about this, but I do want to say that in support of the author (who my issue was never with) I think that faceless brown m..."

I started listening to one of my regular book podcasts about this story and after the summary of events I had to turn it off because I am now suffering from American Dirt fatigue...


message 49: by Joi (new)

Joi (missjoious) | 3782 comments I'm getting tired of this book, and I haven't even read it!!


Reminds me of the old saying- no publicity is bad publicity.


message 50: by Amy (new)

Amy | 8311 comments I just took it off my list. I’m not because I don’t want to support authors. Because as soon as I took a look at what it was about I realized it probably wouldn’t hold my interest.


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